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And You Think I'm Crazy!


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Yes I'm a dog-loving dog owner, one who talks to my dogs, and knows for a fact that they talk to me. Just not as much as Vivi, the missing dog from the Westminster show two years ago. She talks to this dog psychic about everything except how to find her:



Vivi the whippet, the prize-winning show dog who vanished two years ago at Kennedy International Airport, is alive and well and living in Brooklyn. At least that’s what the animal psychics say. These are the professionals who claim to tune into an animal’s thoughts through telepathy the way another person might find a radio station.


“She’s pretty street-smart,” said Judi Byers, who describes herself as an animal communicator. “She’s made friends, and she’s got reliable places to eat. She told me she’s been pregnant — she lost one puppy — and that she’s trying to raise the litter on her own.”


It has been two years since Vivi, a brown and white whippet whose full name is Bohem C’est La Vie, disappeared at Kennedy after competing at the 2006 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. At the time, her disappearance prompted an extensive, frenzied and fruitless search that swept up the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the news media and a party of more than 100 local volunteers for weeks — the canine answer to Jimmy Hoffa.


Heartbroken, her co-owners, Jil Walton and Paul Lepiane, and breeder, Bo Bengtson, stayed away from the Westminster dog show last year. But this week, Walton and Lepiane will return dogs to competition at Madison Square Garden for the first time since losing Vivi. (The lists of competitors are kept secret until the show to preserve the integrity of the judging.)


And their first trip back will certainly be emotional.


“For me, it will always bring back the memories of losing her,” Bengtson said. “We realize that the chances of finding her are very minuscule, but we’re hoping that someone found her and is feeding her.”


Vivi had escaped from her crate as it was being loaded onto a Delta flight to Los Angeles and was reportedly seen scampering across the tarmac, through razor wire and into the adjoining marshland. But after eight days of scouring the 4,900-acre airport complex and the marshes, backed up by a Port Authority helicopter, Walton, Lepiane and Bengtson returned to California empty-handed.


Still, the search went on, led by close friends and local dog fanciers. And the circus grew with it.


“The Holiday Inn near the airport became like our headquarters,” said Honi Reisman, who has known Lepiane and Bengtson for more than 30 years. “That’s where we started organizing things with the media and the dog show family.”


The people determined to find Vivi canvassed entire neighborhoods with fliers in seven languages, they set up a hot line for tips ( 1-877-JFK-VIVI ) and at one time had 35 pet psychics involved.


“The whole thing turned into a bit of a fiasco,” said Byers, one of the 35, who claims to have stayed in touch with Vivi since then. “Vivi even asked me, ‘Who are all these people talking to me?’ ”


Eventually, the leads began to dry up. No firm sighting has been reported since last August. But according to Sue Becker, another pet psychic who said she last spoke to Vivi a week ago, there’s a perfectly good reason for this. Vivi would rather not be found — and she’s very good at hiding.


“She doesn’t want to be a show dog anymore,” Becker said. “She just wants to be a companion now.”


Vivi was a remarkably successful show dog. About the time she disappeared, according to Bonnie Folz, a dog trainer and one of the search’s organizers, Vivi was ranked among the top whippets in the country, earning an invitation to the 2007 American Kennel Club National Championships.


These days, the people running the search spend as much time waiting for tips as they do circulating information on how to travel safely with pets while advocating for more accountability from the airlines. When Vivi disappeared, Delta Air Lines paid out $2,800, as it would for a lost piece of baggage of that size and weight. Vivi’s value was estimated at $20,000.


“It’s surprising it doesn’t happen more often, considering how many dogs are being flown,” Bengtson said. “But we’ll never know exactly what happened, how the crate was opened and how she got out.”


It’s that same uncertainty that keeps the search going.


“Unless there’s an actual physical body of Vivi, whether dead or alive, there’s always going to be hope that she’s sitting on somebody’s couch right now,” Folz said. “And there’s always the possibility that we’ll never know.”



If you see Vivi, tell her to phone home!


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